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Pediatric Nephritis Treatment & Management

  • Author: Sahar Fathallah-Shaykh, MD; Chief Editor: Craig B Langman, MD  more...
Updated: Oct 12, 2015

Approach Considerations

Medical care for glomerulonephritis (GN) is usually divided into 2 major components: treatment of primary pathology and supportive care. In renal diseases, supportive care involves managing hypertension and fluid and electrolyte abnormalities and managing decreased renal function.

The treatment of primary pathology ranges from watchful waiting, as in postinfectious GN, to treatment with immunosuppressive medication, such as steroids or cyclophosphamide in lupus. To discuss the primary treatment of all forms of nephritis is beyond the scope of this article. In the case of some etiologies for GN, for example, IgM nephropathy, no definitive therapy is known.

Hypertension can be managed with antihypertensives, such as calcium channel–blocking agents, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor–blocking agents, peripheral vasodilators, and diuretics. The most common fluid abnormality, hypervolemia, is managed with fluid restriction and diuretics or with dialysis if renal function is too poor to respond to diuretics. Hyponatremia is usually dilutional and responds, at least partially, to removal of excess fluid. Hypocalcemia may respond to oral or IV calcium, depending on severity. Mild metabolic acidosis may be present but rarely requires primary treatment.

Some recommend a short course of steroids or cyclophosphamide for tubulointerstitial nephritis (TIN). Prednisone may speed up the recovery from renal symptoms of TIN.[8] However, these drugs are usually not necessary. Most often, stopping the offending agent leads to recovery.


Primary care physicians can usually manage children with poststreptococcal GN unless dialysis is imminent. If dialysis access is necessary, consultation with a surgeon may be required. Refer children with other forms of GN or TIN to a pediatric nephrologist.

Inpatient care

Inpatient care is usually necessary only to manage severe hypertension or complications of acute or chronic renal failure (eg, dialysis access, uremic syndrome, congestive heart failure, electrolyte abnormalities such as hyperkalemia and pericardial effusion). These problems are infrequent in the general pediatric population.

Children with renal failure should be cared for by a physician with experience in managing pediatric renal failure. In the United States, such doctors are frequently found at a tertiary facility.

Outpatient monitoring and care

Outpatient care may be as simple as observation in a child with tubulointerstitial nephritis (TIN) or resolving poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis (GN), or it may involve the use of antihypertensives, diuretics, and diet modification, as in a child with IgA nephropathy or membranoproliferative GN and preserved renal function. Outpatient therapy may involve dialysis in a child who develops end-stage renal disease.


Diet and Activity

In children with acute renal failure secondary to glomerulonephritis (GN) who have lost the ability to excrete a water load, fluid restriction may prevent fluid overload. Tubulointerstitial nephritis (TIN) usually produces nonoliguric acute renal failure. Fluid restriction of 300 mL/m2/d plus losses may allow management of acute renal failure for 2-3 days without dialysis. In patients with hypertension, sodium restriction to the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 2-4 mEq/kg/d may aid in management. In children with renal failure, potassium restriction is justified to prevent hyperkalemia. A short-term high-carbohydrate diet may prevent catabolism of body protein as an energy source. Calcium supplementation is useful to maintain normal serum calcium.

In patients with hypertension and renal failure, discourage strenuous activity; however, walking, playing, and other activities are acceptable.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Sahar Fathallah-Shaykh, MD Associate Professor of Pediatric Nephrology, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Division of Pediatric Nephrology, Medical Director of Pediatric Dialysis Unit, Children's of Alabama

Sahar Fathallah-Shaykh, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Nephrology, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Richard Neiberger, MD, PhD Director of Pediatric Renal Stone Disease Clinic, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Nephrology, University of Florida College of Medicine and Shands Hospital

Richard Neiberger, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation for Medical Research, American Medical Association, American Society of Nephrology, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology, Christian Medical and Dental Associations, Florida Medical Association, International Society for Peritoneal Dialysis, International Society of Nephrology, National Kidney Foundation, New York Academy of Sciences, Shock Society, Sigma Xi, Southern Medical Association, Southern Society for Pediatric Research, Southwest Pediatric Nephrology Study Group

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Frederick J Kaskel, MD, PhD Director of the Division and Training Program in Pediatric Nephrology, Vice Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein School of Medicine

Frederick J Kaskel, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Eastern Society for Pediatric Research, Renal Physicians Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Pediatric Society, American Physiological Society, American Society of Nephrology, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology, American Society of Transplantation, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, International Society of Nephrology, National Kidney Foundation, New York Academy of Sciences, Sigma Xi, Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Craig B Langman, MD The Isaac A Abt, MD, Professor of Kidney Diseases, Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine; Division Head of Kidney Diseases, The Ann and Robert H Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Craig B Langman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Nephrology, International Society of Nephrology

Disclosure: Received income in an amount equal to or greater than $250 from: Alexion Pharmaceuticals; Raptor Pharmaceuticals; Eli Lilly and Company; Dicerna<br/>Received grant/research funds from NIH for none; Received grant/research funds from Raptor Pharmaceuticals, Inc for none; Received grant/research funds from Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for none; Received consulting fee from DiCerna Pharmaceutical Inc. for none.

Additional Contributors

Uri S Alon, MD Director of Bone and Mineral Disorders Clinic and Renal Research Laboratory, Children's Mercy Hospital of Kansas City; Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Nephrology, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine

Uri S Alon, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Federation for Medical Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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